Unless you’re highly allergic, it’s no secret that dogs make lots of people feel great. They wag, look cute, and do things that make even your office nemesis go “ahh.”
Who doesn’t want a workplace pooch that needs you to rub its belly or throw that ball again and again?
According to research, having a dog around the office can improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol and even decrease blood pressure. But studies have shown they can boost mental health too by reducing anxiety and stress levels. After all, it’s been said that the only one who loves you more than you, is your dog.
But do they have a place in the workplace, and how can they really help to lower anxiety and stress levels?
Spending time with dogs reminds us to take pleasure in the smaller things, something that’s important in the cut-throat world of office politics. You might be fighting with Lola from HR, but her Pekinese is entranced by the spiky plant next to the photocopier. Be more like the dog and let office fights float past you. Watching dogs experience every sensation as if it’s the first time they’ve ever witnessed someone opening a can of Pedigree Chum/reaching for a leash is magical. We could do with letting a little bit of every day magic seep into our lives occasionally.
Dogs play a vital role in emotional support. They help whoever is looking after them feel needed (after all, a dog can’t open a packet of meat chews alone). Several recent studies show the psychological benefits to having a pet in the office. Confrontation reduced and people raised their voices less. The study found that for the control group with a dog in the workplace, stress levels were reduced by the end of the working day.
The same can be said for university support dogs. The University of British Columbia brought therapy dogs during students' exam season. A study co-author who monitored the students reported that the results were remarkable. “We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session,” said Professor Stanley Cohen.
Michael Buffham-Wade, director of member experience at Virgin Red, who brings his dog Keiko, a female Shiba Inu, into the office says: “Dogs are just so predictable and happy to see you that it reduces anxiety because you look into their faces and it’s that whole purity - they don’t have ulterior motives. There’s no politics with a dog.”
And any employers unsure about a pooch’s benefits should ready themselves for national Bring Your Dog to Work Day on June 21st. Dogs encourage the office to get up and move around, which can reduce back problems we all associate from sitting at our desks for too long. Many offices have introduced foosball tables and darts boards as light relief, but what would break up the interminable task of filling out a spreadsheet more than throwing a squeaky toy?
Plus, studies have also shown the simple act of stroking a dog’s fur can reduce stress. It reduces your blood pressure, putting you in a better frame of mind for the day.
And it’s not just Virgin that encourages dogs. Ogilvy had a Chief Relaxation Office called Bailey, a cocker spaniel, while Nestle, Google and Amazon also let pet parents bring in their offspring.
Tips to make sure your doggo is comfortable include bringing in a dog bed and toys from home. Making sure they have quiet place to chill out in if it all gets too much. And ensuring that everyone around the office is ok with dogs before you bring them in. Some people have dog phobias so it’s important to respect everyone around you. No matter how great your dog is, if someone is having (excuse the pun) kittens because your beast is sprinting up and down the hallway, they’re going to have a miserable and unproductive day at work.
Lee McGuffie, Virgin Red's digital and content strategy director says: "Remember your dog's wellbeing too. The office needs to be a place they enjoying coming into as well and they are renowned for picking up on the mood and atmosphere. Bear this in mind if your day is going to be hectic and you won't have much time for them. Bring things in they love at home: their own bed/blanket, a couple of familiar toys and the odd treat or two so you can reward them as you would do at home. Oh, and don't forgot to take them out for a walk and a toilet break often. Not only do they get a walk and a sniff but you get a break from the desk and computer which ticks all the boxes."